CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The third lawsuit to be filed in connection with the suspicious deaths of at least ten veterans at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Harrison County comes from surviving family members of a U.S. Navy veteran.
John William Hallman, a Korean War veteran from Braxton County, was 87 when he died at the Clarksburg VA in 2018 after an unexplained, dramatic blood sugar drop.
He was admitted to the VA hospital on June 12, 2018 with a suspected small bowel obstruction.
Hallman was put on antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medication and fluids and admitted to the hospital’s 3A area.
An initial test of his blood sugar was normal, but his glucose levels crashed overnight.
He never recovered from hypoglycemia and died before 12 p.m. on June 13, 2018.
“Having pneumonia, having a small bowel instruction, none of those things can explain a blood sugar of 29. Absolutely, there’s no explanation for it,” said Tony O’Dell, attorney for the Hallman family, during an appearance on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
The lawsuit alleges the Hallman’s death “was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s negligence.”
Hallman’s family contends the hospital did not take the appropriate steps to examine his symptoms or to warn the family of unusual events at the hospital.
At least ten deaths from 2017 and 2018 at the Clarksburg VA have been under investigation.
“We know that the first one was all the way back in July of 2017, so you’re talking 11 months before this happened to Mr. Hallman and at least nine others that we’re aware of before him,” O’Dell said.
“It’s actually egregious that the hospital allowed these failures to continue over this amount of time. There’s no medical explanation for these severe hypoglycemic drops.”
The cases shared several characteristics.
Each patient was in unit 3A and each experienced crashing blood sugar before dying.
Most had no history of diabetes and were not supposed to receive insulin injections.
Hallman’s cause of death was originally attributed to pneumonia caused by inhaling food.
In Nov. 2019, the cause of death on his death certificate was changed to unexplained hypoglycemia.
O’Dell has contended there were steps VA officials should have taken earlier to determine why Hallman and the others died.
The Office of Inspector General for the Veterans Administration has been investigating the deaths along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
As of Tuesday, there were no indications any criminal charges had been filed or anyone had been arrested.
The OIG had yet to release its report.
Nearly two years after O’Dell’s death, “The hospital failures and those people that allowed all this to happen are still in place,” said O’Dell.
“There’s been no accountability whatsoever at the VA and that’s really disturbing. It should be for all the people who rely on that hospital.”
O’Dell filed the lawsuit on behalf of Hallman’s son and daughter who are seeking unspecified damages.
A previous claim for Hallman’s death was submitted to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
It indicated a “person of interest” in the deaths was the person checking Hallman’s falling glucose levels.
VA officials have said the person is no longer employed with the VA.
Tony O’Dell, attorney for the families of veterans affected by the Clarksburg VA joins @HoppyKercheval to discuss updates on the case surrounding suspicious deaths at the Clarksburg VA. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/FiNzkdBxc4
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) June 2, 2020